The AGO’s Basquiat ad at Dundas Subway Station
Today I went with my friend Linda to see the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Linda and I each bought memberships to the AGO back in November so we could expose ourselves to a bit of culture every now and then. Plus it makes for a fun girls’ night (in this case, day) out.
According to the AGO’s promotional materials,
Jean-Michel Basquiat took the New York City art world by storm in the early 1980s and gained international recognition by creating powerful and expressive works that confronted issues of racism, identity and social tension. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at age 27, his groundbreaking drawings and paintings continue to challenge perceptions, provoke vital dialogues and empower us to think critically about the world around us.
Before I attended the exhibit, I didn’t know much about Basquiat, other than what I’d read in this article I recently read in the NYT Blogs about an upcoming exhibit of his notebooks at the Brooklyn Museum.
So, did his drawings challenge my perceptions and empower me to think critically about the world around us?
The first wall of the exhibit showcased a number of drawings on paper. To my uneducated-about-art eye, these drawings looked a lot like children’s drawings. There was a certain charm to them, but then again there’s a certain charm to most drawings done in that style.
But then I moved on to the next pieces, and slowly I began to understand what the promotional materials were talking about. His larger pieces are bold and beautifully vibrant with colour and emotion, and many of them incorporate symbols which are reflected in other pieces. Overall, I enjoyed his skull/head pieces the most. My friend Linda was awed by the emotion Basquiat was able to give to the eyes in several of his pieces.
One piece, Defacement – The Death of Michael Stewart, is particularly intense and moving. Basquiat created the piece after the brutal beating death of black graffiti artist Michael Stewart at the hands of the New York City transit police in 1983.
With some of the pieces, though, the accompanying commentary just confused me – I’d look from the painting to the words and I simply didn’t get from the painting what the commentary said I should be getting. But there were several very powerful pieces that definitely speak to the issues of race and social tension. His portrayal of young black men in his artwork is particularly powerful.
Would I go again? Yes. And actually, I am going again! Next week, I’m going to take Dylan there. I have a feeling he’ll really enjoy the exhibit.
To see some of the pictures from the exhibit, click here.